Delivering records management: A new way to approach a common organizational challenge

The aim of records management is simple: keep what you need and discard what you don’t. When this aim is achieved, organizations are less exposed to risk. The question is, how can we achieve this simple goal?

Traditional records management solutions have tried to address this challenge through governance and mandating that users engage with the system to drive compliance. We believe that mandating usage is deeply flawed and expensive. Just consider the legions of struggling change management programs, the ink spilt over records management and adoption, or the numerous training sessions users have been subjected to during the course of enterprise content management initiatives.

Other records management solutions (or records managers) focus on user experience to engage users and streamline adoption. While improving the user experience can be helpful, this too is a flawed approach because ultimately it is still focused on delivering the records management agenda. End-users are often dismissive, or at best confused, when it comes to records management.

Don’t focus on the end-users, focus on their jobs

We believe that for records managers to achieve their goals, they need to orient themselves towards helping people do their jobs. In orienting towards the end-users’ jobs, records managers get solution adoption and they will then be able to deliver on the aims of their records management program.

This orientation could be as simple as structuring the file repository in a way that directly supports the end-user (as opposed to the records manager), delivering an automated workflow to expedite business processes, or even using an online form to capture, organize and disseminate business data.

In addition to supporting the end-users performing their jobs and delivering on the records management agenda, our experience has shown that there is a third benefit to this approach: the organization is less burdened with low-value work, is more efficient, and is more focused on delivering business outcomes that matter.

So, how can we help the users perform their jobs and deliver records management?

Practicalities matter. This is not theoretical physics. There are three things that must occur for this approach to be tenable.

  • You need to be able to actually support people in performing their jobs in a way that can also deliver your records management aim.
  • It takes more effort to drive this result than a standard approach to records management, so you need a project governance and funding mechanism that permits a more user-focused approach.
  • You have to prioritize your focus. At the outset, we say this is about risk, not absolutes, and priorities should consider the risk—within any given content domain—of keeping too much or discarding too much.

People’s jobs are complex and multi-faceted. When supporting these jobs, the temptation is to decompose them into processes and tasks and focus on optimizing that job from a process point of view. Unfortunately, this process optimization approach neglects the creativity that is required for most work in today’s world.

The alternative to the process optimization approach is to consider the user’s experience to understand the root of success or failure in a job and work from there to orient all the tools, technology, process refinement, and people development toward a newly designed ideal experience.

So, how does this help records management?

Once we gain a deep appreciation of the user’s challenges and experiences within their job context, we have a foundation for robust end-user adoption of the solution.

After users adopt the solution, we as the records management team have the ability to manage the content within that solution as we see fit. For example, we are then able to automate record declaration as well as continue to drive higher value within the business. This is a 180-degree turn from the reputation that records management’s reputation of reducing risk by adding friction and extra work into people’s days.

Records management can be a powerful, outcome-driven part of an organization that benefits end-users as opposed to infuriating them. In fact, under the auspices of records management, an organization can be transformed by focusing on the jobs people do.

Learn more about how focusing on end-users' jobs can drive compliance and other critical records management objectives:

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